Social media | University of Oxford
Students taking selfie
Students taking a selfie
Credit: Shutterstock / William Perugini

Social media

Social media: Five things to remember

These are some things to consider whether you are starting a new social media presence or maintaining an old one:

Find your voice

Who are you talking to? What’s your voice? What are you trying to accomplish? Think about this before every campaign. If you have several admins or people working to produce this content, make sure they’re writing with a common voice.

Be flexible

Social media accounts are “always in beta” and constantly evolving. While the content can change, (it is good to) we need to strike a balance between the Oxford message and sharing content that we know is popular with our audiences; wherever we can entwine these two is imperative to the success of engagement.

Listen and learn

Some of the best ideas come from listening closely. Keep it “social” by watching, learning from, and amplifying the best finds from your audience. (Likewise, remember to connect with your colleagues).

Content (and timing) is everything

Social media tools are great ways to help you accomplish your goals. Think of them as a means to an end rather than the most important part: telling a great story in a way that helps you connect with people is more important than the tools themselves.

Remember (and review) your objectives

As with everything we do, remember that our goal is to share something innovative and unique about Oxford University. Keep the institutional position in mind—and think about how best to creatively share our most impactful stories. You will have different objectives within your strategies – remember to set SMART objectives so that what you are trying to achieve can be effectively measured.

Started in Oxford: Showcase of Innovation

The Oxford region is one of the most innovative in the UK, with new enterprises continuing to join a growing band of spinouts, startups and entrepreneurs. University researchers have started over 60 companies since 2005 which is more than any other UK University. Oxford researchers have started 11 new companies in 2016 alone!

The Started in Oxford campaign was run over a two week period and received over 5 million impressions. More details about the campaign can be found here.

A million likes: how big is a million? 

In early 2013 we realised that if our Facebook channel continued to increase steadily then within the month we would be the first UK University to reach one million 'likes'. How could we both celebrate this milestone and thank those who made up this audience? We brewed some coffee and started discussing and writing down our ideas.

A clear front runner was an animation based around how large a million was illustrated with facts gathered about the University; its collections, its outreach work, its research and student satisfaction rates. We took inspiration from the classic Charles and Ray Eames film 'Powers of Ten'. A storyboard was quickly created, reviewed, improved upon and signed off, and then Tom Wilkinson, at the time our sole filmmaker, got to work to produce the short film.

Facebook screenThe moment before the millionth like

The message with the You Tube embed was created on the morning of the 18 of April when we were just a few dozen short of the million. An hour later, after numerous refreshes of our page, it clicked over into 7 figures and we published the message.

The message had a reach of more than 54,000 people, was liked 400+ times and received dozens of shares and comments. The video has been viewed more than 9,000 times.  

It took approximately 5 years to build an audience of 1,000,000. It only took 19 months to double that figure to 2,000,000.

Social media Insights: Strategy and Measurement

Took place on 28 March 2017

Jessica Turner, Social and Content Officer, spoke at the 2017 UAS Conference on how to develop measurable social media objectives and strategic goals, offering advice about best practice and dispelling social media myths. 

Social Media Impact (28.03.2017).pdf

Social media: Five things to remember

Took place on 24 January 2017

Jessica Turner, Social and Content Officer, discussed the five things that you need to remember when starting a new social media presence or maintaining an old one.

Social media best practice (24.01.17).pdf

Social media best practice, insight and strategy

Took place on 24 February 2015

Stuart Fowkes, Head of Digital Communications (maternity cover), discussed how to develop a social media strategy and offered advice about best practice.

Social media analytics

Took place on 27 October 2014

Head of Digital Communications, Suzi Ardley, discussed common metrics used in digital communications and showed how these can be used to assist in evaluating your communications activities.

How do you know if you’re doing it right? Evaluating social media impact

Took place on 6 June 2013

As social media’s place in our communications strategies grows, it is important that we are able to measure the impact of what we do online. This workshop will explore various tools and strategies for evaluating and reporting on social media impact and connecting it to your organisational goals and strategy. Liz McCarthy, Communications and Social Media Officer from the Bodleian Libraries, will deliver this workshop.

'We've got digital marketing covered: we've got a Facebook page!'

Took place on 26 February and 7 March 2013

For many, digital marketing activity has crept up on us and suddenly we’re expected to engage with our prospective students through the scary world of social media. However, having a University Facebook page or Twitter feed does not mean we are successful at engaging with a digital audience. Some of the best social campaigns are fully integrated both online and offline, engage with a targeted audience and prove a measurable return on investment. This workshop, which was run by Lizzie Burrows, Student Recruitment Officer in the Admissions Office, discussed good (and not so good!) examples of this, with some tips for your own campaigns. It is aimed at colleagues who have recently been given digital marketing as part of their remit or are interested in innovative ways to connect with prospective students.

Digital Communications Office

General contact: digicomms@admin.ox.ac.uk

Head of Campaigns and Digital Communications
Suzi Ardley
Tel: 01865 280474, email: suzi.ardley@admin.ox.ac.uk

Web Officer
Stephen Sangar
Tel: 01865 280550, email: stephen.sangar@admin.ox.ac.uk

Web Officer
Christopher Eddie
Tel: 01865 280546, email: christopher.eddie@admin.ox.ac.uk

Assistant Web Officer
Richard Watts
Tel: 01865 270280, email: richard.watts@admin.ox.ac.uk

Content and Social Media Officer
Susannah Mendus
Tel: 01865 280536, email: susannah.mendus@admin.ox.ac.uk

Creative Media Manager
Tom Wilkinson
Tel: 01865 280076, email: tom.wilkinson@admin.ox.ac.uk

Creative Media Manager (research)
Tom Fuller
Tel: 01865 270775, email: tom.fuller@admin.ox.ac.uk

Social Media Strategy

When developing social media channels it can be very easy to get lost—which is why you need a social media strategy.

  • What should your profile say?
  • What platforms should we use?
  • Who's in charge?
  • Who's in charge of coming up with stuff to say?
  • How often should we post?

A strategy is simple and actionable; it tells you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it for maximum results, as best fits your department or college. Set aside some time and work through these seven steps, and you'll have your own social media strategy.

1. Identify your target audience: Don't get lost in the details here; use the demographic research you've already done, or just answer each question as quickly as you can from what you already know or with a minimal amount of research. You need a rough idea, not a book-length collection of research.

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • Where are they?
  • What are they talking about?

2. Define your message: In order to create a message that matters to your audience, you need to talk about what they care about and things that they are interested in, as well as the overall objectives of the university.

  • What is your audience interested in?
  • What is your unique selling point?
  • How can you communicate your unique selling point and most effectively appeal to your audience?
  • How can you approach social media with a solution to their problems and to add value to their experience?

3. Determine your goals: Goals can be anything from “build an e-mail list” to “get more people to attend events”; it depends on your goals and how you use social media and your website to interact with your audience.

  • Why are you using social media?
  • What do you hope to gain out of it? (Be specific.)
  • What counts as a successful conversion? (i.e. follower converting to event attendee)
  • How do those conversions achieve your goals?

4. Brainstorm your offerings: Creating and offering value is what will make you stand out in social media. Adding to the noise isn't a good strategy; adding value and sharing it with your audience is.

  • What can you provide via social media that will help/interest/entertain your target audience?
  • What kind of content will you produce?
  • What content will help you achieve your goals?

5. Set a budget/schedule for needed resources: You can't do it all; define your resources in terms of money, time and personnel, then put those resources to work.

  • How much time, money, talent and energy can you dedicate to social media?
  • Who is in charge?
  • What will you outsource/ delegate? 

6. Set limits and benchmarks: You still can't do it all, so don't waste your time trying; focus on sticking to your strategy within a few social media spaces. You can always expand later.

  • What social media platforms will you use?
  • What content will you put on each one? How often?
  • When will you produce this content?
  • How will you measure its success?

7. Apply, wait and test/tweak: Set a time limit (several months, at the least) and stick to your strategy for that amount of time before you start messing with it.

Keys to success

  • Start with a focused approach. Don’t try and spread yourself too thin. Instead, choose one or two platforms, a primary message, and a primary means of communication.
  • Stay consistent. Consistency conveys authority and builds trust.
  • Follow the etiquette of social media (be polite; respond to people; don't spam; give credit).
  • Use apps that will streamline your social media sharing.
  • Don't rely solely on automation. Engage, respond, talk to people, help them, have conversations.
  • Don't let it take over your work time. Instead, designate a daily block of time to do your social media work.
  • Set your goals first, then break the goals down into tasks, and then assign the tasks to your daily time slots (and/or your employees, and/or your outsourced help).

Social media takes time, but it's worth your time. Just not all your time. Use a simple strategy like the one you've just created to use social media effectively and still do the rest of your work.

This social media strategy template should help you to get started.

Social media voice

The tone of voice in your digital communication needs to fit in with university branding and the values you want to convey to your readers. However, each digital communication channel you choose to employ will have a different set of readers and a very different focus; therefore, in each instance, the tone of voice and personality utilised must be adapted accordingly.

Many people ask how to “use” social media, what they often mean is how they should sound, or what style of writing to use. There is never any one, universal answer to this question, but here are some tips to get you started:

  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Share media such as photos, videos, audio, or even existing relevant articles. The best way to express your thoughts or opinions may involve few words.
  • Be helpful. In many cases, social media communicators are the new customer service representatives. If you can’t answer a question, apologise and refer the user to someone who can.
  • Write deliberately and accurately. Just like in the real world, saying what you mean and meaning what you say communicates authenticity. Step one is to get people to listen to you; step two is to ensure that they trust your expertise.
  • Respect copyright laws. Always give credit and link to your sources.
  • Refrain from broadcasting private issues and topics.
  • Accept failures graciously. Acknowledging and correcting mistakes promptly will help maintain rapport with your readers and, in some cases, even strengthen it.
  • Remember that you are speaking to a group, not just a collection of individuals. Adopt a more communal voice that sounds reasonable to the diverse backgrounds that compose that group.

Social Media Measurement

If you’re using social media, you should be measuring it. But don’t measure just for the sake of having metrics. Instead, measure your social activities so that you can learn what’s successful, what isn’t, and how you can improve.

When getting started with social media measurement you should aim to address these questions:

  • How do you know if your social media activities are effective?
  • How do you decide what metrics you should be monitoring?
  • How do you calculate those metrics?
  • How do you interpret the numbers once you have them?

The two types of social media measurement are:

Ongoing Analytics – Ongoing monitoring that tracks activity over time

Campaign-Focused Metrics – Campaign or event analytics with a clear beginning and end.

Ongoing analytics are necessary for keeping up with the overall pulse of general conversation about your brand. Once your brand tracking is set up, you can just let it run and check in regularly to see how everything is going.

Campaign-focused metrics help you understand the impact of targeted marketing initiatives and will vary from campaign to campaign, depending on your goals for each.

An effective social media measurement program will likely include both ongoing and campaign-specific measurement.

Step 1: Determine your social goals

Before you jump into measuring every single tweet, photo and Facebook comment posted about your brand, first think about your goals with social media. What are you trying to accomplish or gain through these social channels? And which channels are most relevant to those goals?

The first step in your measurement plan should be to generate a list of what you’re trying to achieve from your social media efforts. Social media can serve a variety of purposes, from broadcasting news and information, to answering questions and engaging with a community. What are you trying to accomplish? You will want to make sure that you have an up to date social media strategy.

You’ve probably already started interacting on social media sites, depending on the type of information and the format of the content you’re sharing. You’ve probably also considered the audience you want to reach and the tools they’re using. So the next step is to think about what you want your audience to do with your content on these channels. Are you trying to get them to read, share, reply, click, engage? List out all your business goals for social media (these would have been already outlined in your strategy).

Step 2: Create metrics to measure these goals

The next step is to match your goals to actual metrics and behaviours you can measure. For example, if you’re trying to measure engagement, then what is the practical form of engagement you want to track? Is it retweets or reposts? Replies or comments? Clicks? Here are a few suggestions of behaviours to measure, based on a few common social media goals:

  • If you want to measure awareness, then use metrics like volume, reach, exposure, and amplification. How far is your message spreading?
  • If you want to measure engagement, then look for metrics around retweets, comments, replies, and participants. How many people are participating, how often are they participating, and in what forms are they participating?
  • If your goal is to drive traffic to your website, then track URL shares, clicks and conversions. Are people moving through social media to your external site and what do they do once they’re on your site?
  • If your goal is to find advocates and fans, then track contributors and influence. Who is participating and what kind of impact do they have?
  • If your goal is to increase your brand’s share of voice, then track your volume relative to your closest competitors. How much of the overall conversation around your industry or product category is about your brand?

Step 3: Measure

After you’ve listed the metrics you want to focus on, now you need to find tools that actually capture these metrics, and then start measuring. In some cases, social media channels themselves provide some form of analytics, in some cases you will need to use third party tools, and in some cases you can build your own using APIs.

If you’re not sure which tools to use for which channels, ask around or do a quick Google search and you’ll find many options. Most platforms will also give you access to their own analytics dashboards as well.

Many social analytics tools work in real-time, so if you can plan ahead and set up tracking before your campaign begins (and well before your report is due), it will be much easier to access the data you need later.

On Twitter, for example, accessing tweets that are more than a few days old is very expensive, difficult, and far less reliable than collecting and archiving them in real time.

The measurement part of this may take some time; so let the tools do their work. Make sure they’re tracking the social posts you’re interested in, do what you can to filter out spam, and then come back in a few days for steps 4 and 5.

Step 4: Monitor and report

The fourth step is to report your results. Use your initial findings to set a baseline or benchmark for future measurement, and share these early figures with your important stakeholders. Two important questions to nail down are:

  • How do your numbers compare to what you expected?
  • How do they compare to your competitors’ or related products and campaigns?

One of the great parts of social media analytics is that you can easily run reports about your competitors to see how they’re doing.

This is a good time to consider your schedule for regular reporting. Depending on your schedule, monthly or quarterly reporting may work best, but weekly reporting may work well for others. No matter the schedule, make sure you’re checking in regularly on your metrics. Don’t let your effort up to this point go to waste!  Let your metrics accumulate over time; you’ll see how valuable this data will become after a few months have passed and you have older data to compare to your new data.

In your reports, be sure you highlight the important numbers:

  • Include benchmarks or other contextual information so that your stakeholders can quickly understand what all the figures mean
  • Consider including visualizations of your data; graphs can help communicate your results quickly and clearly to your audience
  • Keep your graphs simple and clean

You should also think about how you want to document anecdotal and qualitative insights into your reporting as these can track examples of they types of engagements that happens with your content.  

Step 5: Adjust and repeat

The final step is to carefully review your measurement program. How are these metrics doing? Are you missing anything? Was anything superfluous or unnecessary? Figure out what you can improve, make changes, and then measure some more. Check back in with the goals you set initially and make sure your new metrics actually help you address those goals.

If you’re participating in social media, you really need to understand how you’re doing. Is your content having the impact you want? Are you meeting your company’s goals with social media? This is why monitoring and measuring your social media activities is so crucial – you need reliable and consistent analytics that help you track your success on channels like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

This social media report template should help you to get started.

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